I strongly believe that small business owners can rapidly grow their business and earnings if they understand and leverage the power of digital marketing in smart ways. You do not need a big initial investment to start building your digital presence but expenses can grow quickly if one is not careful.
I recommend small business owners to learn and expand their knowledge about digital marketing themselves by reading as much as they can.
There are lots of free resources available online and you just need to start exploring – start with Google search for terms like “digital marketing for small business”, “what is online marketing”, “learn digital marketing”, “learn search engine optimization”, etc.
Digital Marketing Free Learning Resources:
Here are some useful resources that I recommend for people who are new to digital marketing:
Once you have gained some familiarity with the topic, you will be able to make a sound decision on how you want to go about it and how to spend your money wisely. You may want to do it yourself or you can hire a full time/part-time in-house resource or you can work with a dedicated agency. Some websites allow you to hire professionals on an hourly basis from around the world. But it is important that you understand the work that you are asking somebody to do for you and the objectives you are trying to achieve otherwise you will just waste your time and money.
So what is Digital Marketing?
Also known as online marketing, digital marketing is the use of tools available on the web to advertise/market your products and services and grow your business. This is basically creating and building brands’ web presence in the form of a website, app, social media profile and then working on strategies to bring potential customers to your channel and converting them into paid customers. Today digital marketing is expanding quickly and now businesses allocate a major part of their advertising budget on digital.
As a business owner, you can grow your number of customers and revenue by investing in building your digital presence. You will have to first identify your audience and understand how they reach you and what strategies your competitors are adopting. Some of the different digital marketing strategies include – search engine optimization, paid search marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, marketing automation etc.
Build your Online Presence
Create your website: This is the first and most important step in building your online presence. You need a website to tell your prospective customers about who you are, what products/services you offer and to allow your customers to contact you. It should be easy to navigate, offers good content/value to customers, be optimized for search engines and be easy to manage.
I recommend using WordPress to build your website. It is a very popular content management system used by over 450 million websites today. I am recommending WordPress because it is very easy to learn and manage – once your website is done by a professional, you can easily manage it including adding new pages, editing content, deleting obsolete pages etc. WordPress also offer a lot of advanced functionality through plugins – you can get almost all features that you can think of in a website via plugins that are free as well as paid. WordPress websites also perform well in search engine rankings and there are great SEO plugins as well.
Create Social Media Profiles: It is important to maintain your business profile on social media channels that are popular among your customers. Brands use social media channels to advertise their services, generate web traffic, listen to their customers – their complaints and suggestions and offer customer service.
I recommend small business owners to create a business profile on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Some other popular social media channels for brands are Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Reddit and Snapchat.
Generate Web Traffic for your Website / Social Media Channels
Building your online presence is important but it is of no use if your customers are not able to find it. Here are some of the digital marketing strategies that you can leverage to ensure your customers can reach you when they need your services:
Search Engine Optimization: SEO or search engine optimization refers to a set of strategies that you adopt to optimize your website for search engines. It includes on-page optimization and off-page optimization. In on-page optimization, you improve your websites’ SEO by proper meta title, meta description, keywords, quality content, alt text (giving a proper name to images) etc. In off-page optimization, you work on building websites’ reputation through backlinks, reviews, directory submissions etc.
SEO takes time and it is not something that you can start and finish; it is an ongoing process.
Local Search: Local search is a great tool for professionals/service providers that offer services to customers in a local region or surrounding. You can build your local presence by creating your profile on Google My Business, Bing Places, Yelp, and local business directories in your region. Provide all the relevant information about business, hours, address and contact info. Ask your customers to review you as there is nothing better than positive reviews from real people.
Paid Search Engine Marketing: Paid search marketing is a strategy where you pay search engines to show your ad when people search for your targeted keywords. While SEO takes time to build, paid search is a fast method to generate traffic – you just need to set up your account on major search engines Google or Bing, setup campaigns including ads, description, geography, keywords, amount of money you are willing to spend per click, budget and you are all set.
While paid search is an effective method to generate relevant traffic for your website, it can be very expensive.
Display Marketing: Display advertising is a strategy where you pay for ads – text-based, images or multimedia on websites or apps across the web. This can be either pay per click or pay per thousand impressions. The main goal of display advertising is to build brand awareness.
Social Media Marketing: Social media marketing involves creating, posting and sharing relevant content on social media channels to build brand awareness, engaging with your customers and generating traffic for your website. Social media marketing can be organic or paid. In paid social media marketing you pay to show your content or ad to your targeted audience. Social media marketing especially on Facebook is widely used by small businesses to promote brand awareness and generate relevant traffic.
Email Marketing: In email marketing, you send highly personalized emails to prospective customers about products/services they may need. Earlier I used to think email marketing is waste of time, but I have realized it is a very effective way to market your services to your targeted audience.
Email marketing can be a drip campaign where your prospective customers enter a campaign when they perform a certain action on your site or make a purchase or contact your customer service. It can also be a personalized email campaign where you segment your audience and then send personalized communication to those that meet the targeted condition. Some of the popular email marketing applications for small businesses include MailChimp, Constant Contact, Act-On, Pardot, Marketo, etc.
Where to Start your Digital Marketing Journey as a Small Business
So after consuming all of the above information, you must be excited to start working towards building your online presence, increasing the number of customers and growing revenue. If you have time and interest you can do it all by yourself. Building a WordPress website and social media profiles is easy and you can create content yourself if you have time.
If you don’t have time you can hire a part-time or full-time resource to do all this work for you that may include building / managing the website, improving SEO, paid search if you have a budget.
There are also websites (Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal where you can hire professionals on an hourly basis as and when you need them. Or you can also work with a dedicated agency as per your budget to ensure you get a good digital presence and your customers can reach you when they need you the most.
I recommend getting a good website done, building a social presence, building a local presence, asking happy customers to review – All of this is free. Spend on advertising when you have started seeing results from your organic efforts. I do not recommend paying for any service that charges money to show your profile on their site.
I am also able to help if you have any questions, need suggestions or anything else related to digital marketing. I am based out of Kitchener – Waterloo region in Ontario, Canada but I can offer my help across the Greater Toronto Area.